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Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Entries in rigging (20)

Monday
Feb242014

the bamboo whisker pole

I try not to run dead down wind, but instead take it a bit on the quarter, enough that the staysail fills and isn't blanketed by the main. If we must sail dead down wind we will, and especially in calmer sea states that's just fine. 

When waves start breaking and seas start heaping up, the ride is a lot more comfortable if you're broad reaching and in my personal experience the risk of broaching is much lower. Less end-of-the-world-ish, broad reaching tends to heel the boat a bit instead of just letting her roll around on her longitudinal axis. 

Regardless though, the 3,000 mile / 4 week Pacific crossing will be primarily a down wind affair, and if the trades don't beef up here very soon the wind will be in the 10-15 knot range. With conditions like those we have a drifter for a jib (thanks to my unpopular move of trashing the roller furling) and I really wanted to get a pole.

A whisker pole, basically, is a pole that lets you "push" the clew (bottom/back corner of the sail) out over the water and hold it there. In light airs when the sail might otherwise collapse and flog itself to death, the pole forces the sail to keep its shape, sort of. 

The problem with whisker poles is that we don't have one and the "right" ones cost a lot of money, but fundamentally it's a pole, right? I mean, it's a friggen pole. Yes it has to perform under load, yes it needs to be corrosion resistant, and yes it needs some fittings on the end. But other than that, it's a pole. 

Images danced in my head of two long 2x4's with some overlap, thru-bolting them together. Then someone mentioned a long piece of thick-walled PVC. 

But then I saw the geniuses over on SV Lilo that were using bamboo for a dinghy mast and I got excited. 

We got the scoop that some bamboo stalks were growing next to the wall near the primary school in La Cruz, so off Cora and I started on our hike.

Protip: if you do this, make sure you realize you'll need to cut the bottom and the top. The canopy at the top is way to intertwined to just haul down a stalk you chop at the bottom. Worse for me, there was a power line running through it all and I didn't want to be the guy who started a fire at the school or knocked out someone's power. 

Fast forward thirty minutes of hiking back with it and then sawing off all the little nodules along the stalk and I'm the proud owner of a new soon-to-have-fittings whisker pole. 

Yes, boat nazis, I know it isn't as good as aluminium (or carbon). But you know what? It's free. I got a nice little walk out of it. I got a chance to cut down a bamboo stalk and make a whisker pole out of it. 

And when we roll into French Polynesia with our balling-out-of-control bamboo pole you know everyone will be jealous. 

Friday
Oct122012

stainless steel doesn't rust

One of the less glamorous jobs I've been doing has been to service various elements of our standing rigging: basically the mast itself, the booms, and the wires that hold it up. Those wires (called stays and shrouds) are connected to the hull via chainplates: stainless steel strips that are thru-bolted to re-enforced fiberglass layers in the hull itself. 

Most every form of stainless steel on a boat is, or should be, 316. Note that nowhere does anything say that it won't corrode or rust, it simply is "resistant". 

The picture here is showing one of the bolts that holds the chain plate onto the boat. Much of the material has been eaten away by pitting and crevice corrosion: the result of salt water in a rather oxygen deprived environment. How far into the bolt the corrosion goes only a hacksaw would tell me and if I had the time I just might do it. 

The chainplates themselves haven't been too bad, but once you pull them it's sort of silly to put them back considering the low cost and high piece of mind that comes from having them replaced. 

Saturday
Aug112012

say hey to the new (to us) drifter

One of my favorite sails is the rarely seen drifter. Even trash packed, it could easily fit into a typical high schooler's backpack, and weighs maybe ~30 pounds. It's not hard to rig, it allows you to keep moving when the wind drops low (typical in Southern California), and the dimensions make storage a snap.

So why are they so uncommon? Roller furling, the bane of my existence. Yes, you theoretically can run different types of sails with a roller furler, but almost no one does. People use whatever is on the furler, typically a genoa. When the air gets light, a many hundreds of dollar whisker pole gets rigged, but really the sail cloth is just way too heavy for the light air. 

I removed the roller furling from our boat a week ago, and it's been replaced by a normal old school wire. The yankee (heavy weight, working sail cloth) got #3 hanks punched in, and now running a different sail (like the drifter) is a piece of cake. 

The sail itself I got used from Second Wind Sails. I ordered it on Wednesday and it was here by Friday: great customer service. 

Friday
Aug102012

five days left

It's getting so close to the wire that for the few remaining items we need to buy, I can't count on UPS Ground moving fast enough. Our boat is back in the water, which is good, and I've gotten a few things accomplished:

- The new forestay is on, and the rig properly tensioned. In short, we can really sail again.
- The thruhulls and seacocks that needed to replaced have been.
- We have new bottom paint, I put on new zincs, and our prop is shiny clean.
- I managed to get her around the harbor today singlehanded and not bump into anything, which is always a plus.
- A new head is more-or-less installed.
- I sort of figured out the bilge pump wiring.

I think I'm going to be working my tail off right until Wednesday morning. There is some "fun" work to do like going up to the spreaders and installing a little padeye so we can run flags and a radar reflector. But I'm saving those for the end when I can reward myself with some fun projects. For now it's back to the meat grinder of toilets, sinks, and the autopilot. 

Tuesday
Feb212012

a video post from the bow

What does a writer do when they lack good work product? Why they use a gimmick, of course! So meet mine: a video blog.

Tuesday
Jan032012

bowsprit is undergoing surgery

Stan, Charlotte, and Cora walking down the dock. Click to enlarge.There's something phallic about a bowsprit. A mighty timber jutting forth proudly from the bow of the vessel, and it's especially demasculinizing to see it carted off, leaving our formerly well endowed boat to sit in shame and make excuses for why it doesn't have, well, you know: something of mention in that one particular area.

We have ten days of good weather (and perhaps more), so for that I'm quite thankful. The mast is held aft by the now-loosened aft stay with the boom being supported by the dodger, but up forward it's a bridle of sorts going down around the bobstay fitting. I'm glad I can tie knots well and I feel more comfortable making temporary standing rigging switch outs if need be, but I'd like to get the rig resecured as soon as possible. 


Sitting in Stan's late 90's Ford Escort (GT, he'd add). Click to enlarge.My friend Stan helped us drive it up to my carpenter friend Gray's in Escondido. I went back the next day bringing some hardware and West Systems Epoxy (for gluing wood and the general awesomeness of epoxy). 

So for now I have to let the wood repairs happen, and get ready to remount the bowsprit when it's ready. Otherwise I can just walk by and gently pat Rebel Heart's gunwales, saying that really, size doesn't matter and no one notices.

Thursday
Dec292011

the bowsprit rot: sort of bad, but not too bad.

Click to enlarge.You don't need to be a bearded old white guy sitting in a woodshop to notice that yes indeed, the piece of wood shown to the left is a little banged up.

However, just how banged up is still open for debate. As my friend Stanley Pendelton reminded today a piece of good wood glued properly to other good wood is usually stronger than the original. In fact most wooden masts are hollow and made of numerous pieces that are glued together. 

Stanley thinks this bowsprit can be salvaged, although further scraping might reveal deeper issues. I of course am hardly qualified to build a popsicle stick house so I'm eternally grateful to my friends for the help they're providing me.

The next step is to get this chunk o' wood into the back of a Ford Escort and drive it to my carpenter friend's house in Escondido. 

For anyone else thinking of doing bowsprit repair I have to tell you that it's really not that bad and like all things on a boat you feel really good once you've personally inspected it. 

One further note I'd add is to try to remember where the forces come from. Without getting into the naval architecture of the bowsprit, its primary job is to push the cranse iron (the cap at the end which connects the bobstay and the forward stay) out and resist buckling and compression. 

Although arguably more information than anyone other than a shipwright would want to know, classicmarine.co.uk has a great article on bowsprits and their various forces.

Wednesday
Dec282011

finally got the bowsprit off

With some surface rot that allowed me to sink a screwdiver six inches into my rigging, I finally removed the bowsprit on our Hans Christian. Weighing in around two hundred pounds and being about fourteen feet long it was a bit of a pain in the ass. Oh, and then there's the whole thing about how the fittings that keep the mast from flying backwards are all secured to the now non-existent bowsprit. 

This was a job I've been putting off for some time for various reasons and was recently re-motivated to do it based in large part on reading Steven Pressfield's book Do the Work. Author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Pressfield talks about Resistance. It's the thing that causes us to procrastinate, to make excuses, to dodge work, and to put things off. Rather than looking at it as an ememy we can look at Resistance as a compass of sorts, pointing us towards that which will have the most transformative impact on our soul. Mystical? Sure. Did it motivate me to get my bowsprit off? Fuck yeah it did.

Next up on the hit list is stripping off the paint and goo and seeing what lurks beneath. There's some rot, but according to my friend Stan (who just so happens to own Pendleton Yacht Yard, is an accomplished shipwright, and was my study-buddy through my 100 ton class) the rot might not be so bad and can be repaired, as opposed to shaping a new piece of wood.

So I've got a date with a heatgun and a scraper, starting tonight. I could put it off but I'm on a roll and this shit isn't going to get any closer to done by me blogging about it.

So to Mr. Pressfield: thanks. I like your style, I like your books, and coupled with a great batch of weather this time of year it was just what I needed to get back in the saddle and do the work.

Sunday
Aug212011

scuba, captain'ing, and fixing our bowsprit

So minus the normal routine of my life, those three have been pretty active lately.

In the realm of scuba diving, I'm just about finished with my divemaster packet to send up to PADI. Initially I thought about keeping going up through Instructor but for now I'm happy doing the DM job and diving with friends. 

The Internet has actually helped me quite a bit with scuba diving, first getting a dive buddy off of reddit.com at last minute's notice, and then (through that guy) learning about Power Scuba

I need to do some yearly maintenance on my regulators but other than that I can officially say it's a rather cheap sport once you have all your gear (and you're not chasing gear trends).

In the professional maritime world, I've been picking up shifts where I can. As pretty much the bottom guy on the totem pole I can't exactly demand an awesome schedule but I'm learning a ton and getting much more comfortable at the helm.

As a I mentioned earlier, I got a regular job as the captain of the Pronto, a local sport fisher. That's definitely the hardest job I've had on the water in quite some time. It's difficult because of watch schedules, expectations, and getting a single screw two-stroke diesel engine from the Korean War in and out of a tight slip is never trival. 

On our boat, I'm currently yanking the bowsprit off in total. It has a bit of rot in it, just so much that I need to yank it off to repair it. Instead of that, I found a place up in Oregon that stocks old growth Douglas Fir. I'm having a friend of mine shape the new timber to match the existing and then hopefully (knock on wood, pardon the pun) everything works just perfectly after that.

Pulling off parts of the rig gets a bit spooky since both the outer and inner forestays rely on the bowsprit to be there. It's a workable problem, but not exactly making a ham sandwich. 

Additionally, and I know this will cause an infinite firestorm on message boards one day in the future, I'm pulling the roller furler off. I'll make a whole post specifically about it later.

Wednesday
Sep222010

consider a reefing hook

Just a quick note for those of you who might be looking for different ways to reef your mainsail. We run a rather un-fancy setup whereby a cheek block and matching padeye sit underneath the reef cringles with lines rigged.

But short of tying a reef knot (wink-wink guess where the knot's name comes from) around the spar or using some fancy reefing gear, I'm on my own for securing the tack.

Enter the $7 reefing hook. Secured to my boom via the same clevis pin that secures the full mainsail tack, it's now a simple procedure. 

Step one: Ease the main halyard. I'm lazy, so I drew little black marks on the halyard line with a black marker so I know where to stop without guessing.

Step two: Get the reef tack on the reefing hook.

Step three: Re-haul the main halyard.

Step four: Hit up the clew, using the little cheek blocks on the boom to outhaul the clew. 

Double check the main halyard but by this point in time (especially in conditions requiring a reef) there will be far too much tension on the sail to adjust the halyard without tossing into the irons for a second which can be down right spooky in a lot of wind. Best to wait for a tack opportunity if you want to tighten up.